One Year of 750 Words

Warning: Horn-Tooting to follow

Yesterday I got my Pegasus Badge on 750 Words. This badge marks 365 days of posting without a miss.  Here’s a screenshot of my page as it looked this morning when I logged in:

Pegasus Badge! One Year of 750 words!

I was never a Girl Scout so I never had the satisfaction of earning Merit Badges, but this is what I imagine it must feel like to finally finish crocheting that last damned  potholder, or squire that last widow safely through the intersection.

Holy wow.

The Pegasus Badge.

I must say, it feels sweet. And now, on to the Space Bird! (that will come at Day 500.)

But as happy as I am about 750 Words, I did not win NaNoWriMo. Not even close. I got to about 15K words and bonked.

Spinning plates smashed.  Shards everywhere.

I kind of knew it last week when I posted here, that I had about a snowball’s chance.  All week I have been dreading having to confront the reality of my failure. I have been trying to figure out what lessons could be learned from the wreckage, and what my response should be.

One good thing that came of NaNoWritMo was that I finally learned how to use the software program, Scrivener after a year of having it lie dormant in my Applications folder. I did not learn  every feature of Scrivener lord knows, — that will take years. But I learned a lot.

So what I did yesterday in response to the NaNo failure was open a “New Project” in Scrivener. I created a separate folder for every day in December and I set up a “Word Count Target” for each of those folders, and a “Project Target Word Count” as well.

(See? This is why I love Scrivener. You can do all kinds of stuff like this.)

And I now plan to do in December what I tried, and failed, to do in November: Write 1,667 words a day for 30 days.

I learned a lot about myself as a writer this past year doing 750 words a day, and now I plan to apply this knowledge to this “New Project.”

Here is what I now know:

  • If I think what I write has to make sense, I won’t write.
  • If I think what I write will be evaluated or graded by someone, I will resist and procrastinate endlessly, until I am forced to write at gunpoint.
  • If I think it has to be informative or witty or interesting, I won’t write.

The only way writing gets done for me is if I approach it as an amusing pastime, like doodling. And the only way it can be amusing for me is if I take myself totally off the hook as far as quality goes. If quality happens: Surprise!  But in order to even start, I must give myself carte blanche to scribble (or tap out) complete and utter nonsense.

I will, however, happily write to a specified volume of words, as long as I have time and those words don’t have to make sense or be “good” in any sense of that word.

I will also write daily, and not miss a single day (see Pegasus Badge above) as long the writing is permitted to have the smell and texture of cat vomit.

And as for this blog. I still don’t know what I am going to do with it. I changed themes yesterday to give myself the illusion of a “fresh slate” but I’m not going to make any commitments here yet. I’m just going to see what happens.

Till the next time!


20 Minutes A Day

All of my little rituals each take 20 minutes.

For example:

It takes me about 20 minutes to write 750 words.

I set my Insight Timer for 20 minutes when I meditate.

It takes me 20 minutes to do my little circuit on the MU Stadium steps.

Funny, how in a mere 20 minutes I can totally reset myself: change my mood, raise my energy, get my brain cooking– just by making myself slightly uncomfortable for a little while each day: grinding out words, sitting with boredom, sweating.

Discipline is such a weird thing, because while you are practicing it, it feels “grindstoney” and  straight-jackety–the antithesis of hair-blowing-in-the-wind, Julie Andrews twirling in the field, freedom. Yet, it is the only way to achieve true freedom.

I’ve been re-reading parts of The Untethered Soul lately and the other day I came across Singer’s wonderful story about the dog and electric fence.

A dog wants to run free, is meant to run free, but its owner installs an electric fence, which is a buried electrified cable.

The dog is then outfitted with a special collar that will zap him whenever he get too close to that buried cable. In this way, the dog learns to stay inside the  fence.

The inside of the fence is pain-free, but it is certainly not running-full-out–jowls-a-slather, free (which is what every dog wants and dreams of, presumably.)

But a brave, hell-bent on freedom dog, will creep up to the edge of the fence each day and let the collar buzz him a little. If he does this enough, he will begin to realize that the “zap” just hurts a bit, that it won’t kill him. If he gets used to the buzz and can learn to withstand the zap, he will be able to plow right through that invisible force field and be truly free.  But he must be willing to take the zap.

It’s the same thing with me and my disciplines. I can live quite comfortably without them. The “yard” of my non-disciplined life is small, but it’s comfortable, predictable, though somewhat boring.

The larger world, the world of freedom and infinite possibility on the other side of the invisible force field, can only be earned if I am willing to take the zap, to open myself to the discomfort of the page, the cushion, the stadium steps.

So that’s why when people say, “Why do you do that to yourself? Why do feel the need to put on that straightjacket?  Why press your pretty little nose to that grindstone?  Life hard enough. Relax already!

I know that if I can just learn to withstand the pain of the electric fence which is imprisoning me in this little yard, and do it in 20 minute increments every day, soon I’ll build up the courage to take the zap head first.

Then I’ll be free.

Day 19: The Next 100 Days

As some of you know, I don’t count my life in years, I count in days.  As of today I am 20, 900 days old.  That means in 100 days my odometer will turn to 21, 000.

I feel somewhat mystical about this.  I want to make the next hundred days count for something.  I want to set a 100 Day Goal.  When Obama was elected, all the pundits watched to see what he would do in his First Hundred Days, because in some respects 100 days is enough to accomplish something worth accomplishing.

But then again, if your goals are ambitious, 100 days is hardly enough time to make a decent start.

So I’ve had this book idea rattling around in my head, and I’ve been making notes towards it for some time, but today, when I anticipated that odometer turning in the next 100 days, I thought, “Yes!  I will finish the rough draft of my book in the next hundred days.”

So that’s what I’m going to do.  I have it all worked out in my journal and I started really cranking on it today.  10 pages a day for the next hundred days, and then I’ll cull it and get it down to a reasonable length, but that’s going to be “the discipline.”

It’s kind of like the Yoga Challenge, except longer.  I’m starting on a random day in April and I’ll end on July 27th.  So it’s not neat and clean like “30 Days for $30” but it doesn’t have to be.  The day you make a commitment to your “something” becomes “your sacred starting day.”

So, let’s say the Yoga Challenge got away from you.  You didn’t wake up and realize this could be done, or that you really wanted to do it until today.  What’s to prevent you from starting your yoga challenge today, and then riding it out for the next 30, 40, 50 or even 100 days?

Why not start a streak?  See how long you can keep it going without a break.

Something to think about, no?  It feels really good to have a disciplined activity in one’s life, it really does.  (Ask the people who have been crawling into the studio almost every day for almost a whole month.)

That sign-in sheet is looking ridiculous!

One Year of Holosync

Yesterday was my 1-year anniversary with Holosync.

365 consecutive days without a miss.

Have I ever been this consistent with anything?  I don’t think so.  As a kid I would give up things for Lent, but how long is Lent? 6 weeks?

But with Lent you “give up” stuff.  With Holosync I added something; I added a whole hour of blessed NOTHING to my day.

It wasn’t hard to do, either.  Not like giving up candy for Lent. Not like sitting Zen.  I don’t know if I could have sat on my cushion for an hour a day, every day for a year.  Maybe, but it’s not likely.

The beauty of Holosync is that it is enjoyable, so I looked forward that hour in my Space Chair with my feet up every day.  And unlike Zen, there wasn’t the incessant work of mind-herding and corralling to attend to.

All I did was sit and listen to the rain for an hour.

At the beginning I was itchy.  As I sat, headphones on, listening to the rain, I would think: I have things to do!  This hour is going to put me waaay behind!  I’m not going to have enough time to (fill in the blank):

Walk the dog

Do the dishes

Get to the bank in time

Mop the studio, etc

But that was mainly the worries of the beginning months of the practice.  Now it has its “slot” in my day. I just drop it in, like a coin.

And that metaphor is apt, because this 1-hour meditation is money.  I have something of value in the bank. I have 365 hours of “nothing” earning compound interest.

But as I just re-read that sentence, I think I need a new metaphor because it doesn’t feel like “nothing.”

It feels more like space. Like real estate.  Like land.

Every hour is an acre, a cleared parcel in my mind.  Some of these acres run alongside rivers, some have ocean views, others are at the tops of mountains affording long vistas.

Every one-hour acre of time gives me a place to stand, to land, to sit.  Every hour gives me a piece of psychic geography, and from that home base, I can venture out into the world more quietly.

I feel less needy, more generous. I feel that whatever chaos I should happen to run into in the form of people, or events, or even my own inability to focus, I always have that hour to look back on, remember, and pull up from recent memory and stand there.

People talk about having a “happy place” in their mind that they retreat to when their present reality is either incomprehensible, intolerable or uncomfortable.

What meditating every day gives me is a “happy place” the size of a small country.

By tending its infrastructure, by “walking its fences” everyday, I get to know it, and it gets to know ME.

“Oh, here you are again,” it seems to say as I settle in to The Dive.  “You belong here.”

In this clear, clean space I can write my book, do my yoga practice, make dinner, or meet you for tea and conversation.  It’s a place conducive to creativity and clear thinking.  It has places of high vantage points, as well as cozy cabins to curl up in to germinate new ideas.

After a year of this practice, I feel that I am just now beginning to get comfortable in this new country.  I am also getting the sense that this “little kingdom” might be a lot bigger than it appears.

I am definitely feeling a sense of pride today on this anniversary.  I did something I said I wanted to do.  So many times in the past I have said I wanted something but never followed through, never persisted, never dug my heels in and guarded my supposed “wants” from all invaders.

In the past I weakened. In the past I thought, “Just one day won’t matter; I’ll get right back to it tomorrow.”

But you know what? That one day DOES MATTER.  Because that’s the day the pile of Jenga blocks you’ve erected comes crashing down and you have to start all over again.

And yeah, you can start all over again the next day, and because of the work you did before, all the blocks are within reach and the pile goes up easier the second time.

But there is always the thought, at least for me, of “What if I hadn’t crashed it back there?  How much farther would I be now, and what would that first thing have looked like?”

So, yes, there is some pride in piling up these 365 hours of time, in acquiring these 365 acres of psycho-spiritual geography.

But from this new vantage point, I see that I am still not standing on the top of the mountain the way I had hoped. This year of daily meditation has just brought me to the trailhead.

It is only now that the climb can start.  It is only now that I am in shape and properly equipped.

So my new goal is 1,000 days.  Why not?  But really, the number of days isn’t important.  What’s important is constancy and persistence over time.

And even constancy and persistence aren’t the real goals.

The real goals of these disciplined practices, for me, is the person they make me. These practices aren’t so much what I do, they’re who I am.  My practices become me, my identity.  They align me, they shore me up, they give me ballast, they inform me.

They are who you see when you look into my eyes.  They are who you “know” when you say you “know” me.

It’s so simple, really.

And it’s also really, really sacred.